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Joshua Black Wilkins: Musician, Tintypes

Posted: February 19th, 2011 | Filed under: hopefully good friend, musician, photographer, singer | 7 Comments »

I’d heard about Joshua, (here and here), from several people around town. Then, one day, I stumbled onto his tintypes. They definitely caught my attention. I know how much work goes into them, and it just impressed me that he wasn’t yet another one of these “young guys with a 5D and an iPhone” — that he was putting in the hard work to create these tintypes. So we wrote to him, asked him to be photographed, and he said yes. So off I go, headed to Inglewood, and he spread out the tintypes on his kitchen table, (see video at the bottom of this post). I should have brought my tripod, and copied some of them for him on the big camera, just to see what they’d look like blown up to 30×40 or so, but I got too caught up in the shooting and his music (and his amazing cat). I think after trying “the official approach”, he ended up going to Home Depot and buying a roll of aluminum, and then some cans of matte black spray paint, and customizing his own approach to the backing material for the images. Then he refines his technique of applying the photo emulsion to the aluminum, and then slides them into traditional Fidelity 4×5 holders. Then he explained the whole thing about the UV light issue with tintypes — the emulsion only responds to blue light. I tried to wrap my head around all the limitations, which made me respect him even further. Also, in the video below, he sings that classic Tom Waits’ song, “Picture in a Frame”. He is the real deal; you can just feel it. He came to photography from carpentry — that’s always a good sign.

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Separate from this post about Joshua, here is a small tintype that I bought recently at Downtown Antique Mall. Yes, it’s a gorgeous image, and and it’s fascinating to wonder who these people are. But one thing that i can’t communicate on this blog is the tactile quality, and the weight of the piece, and simply how it feels lying in your hand. It is a special object. I keep it on my mantle at home.